Gratitude: A Daily Spiritual Practice
Gratitude. This word gets bandied around a lot these days and I often wonder how much people actually incorporate it into their daily lives. How often do you feel you could spend more time being grateful for what you have? And yet, too often you get caught up in everyday life events without paying much attention to them, let alone expressing gratitude for them!
I know I was like that, once upon a time, and even now, there are times I forget this vital daily spiritual practice. To my own detriment!
When life happens and you get stuck in the dramas and tribulations of your life, the wheels come off. And, you bemoan your lot in life. Without giving a moment’s thought to all that is well and good and joyful. And, yes, those moments do exist even in difficult times – think of the beautiful flower you saw blooming in your garden only this morning while struggling to control your anxiety.
Why is it essential to include gratitude as part of your daily spiritual practice? What does gratitude mean? And, how can you ensure you’re grateful even on those days when the world feels like it’s spinning out of control?
Read on as I talk about this one daily spiritual practice every person can integrate into their lives. Discover the benefits of such a practice and check out my nine tips to practicing gratitude on a day-to-day basis.
What is Gratitude?
The Cambridge English dictionary defines gratitude as “a strong feeling of appreciation to someone or something for what the person has done for you.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes gratitude as a state of thankfulness or “the state of being grateful.” And here’s a fascinating fact. According to the same dictionary, the first time the word “gratitude” was used was in 1523!
I love this quote by Henri Frederic Amiel (a Swiss writer and philosopher who wrote a brilliant piece on self-analysis) defining what is gratitude:
“Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.” – Henri Frederic Amiel
I also love this simple quote that uses few words but says a lot all in one sentence:
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” – Anonymous
Gratitude is the act of expressing your thankfulness for all that you have, for all that you know, and for all that happens. It teaches you to be aware of the “ordinary” and turning them into the “extraordinary” when you express your gratefulness for the “ordinariness” of such things.
Gratitude is about noticing all the good things that happen, both small and big, and continuously showing this awareness by giving thanks.
Another word often used when defining gratitude is appreciation. When you learn to appreciate all that is well and good and joyful in your life, no matter the challenges and difficulties, you’re performing an act of gratitude.
If you want to know what gratitude looks like it includes all these acts of gratefulness, appreciation, and thankfulness. It also looks like grace, responsiveness, acknowledgment, and recognition.
Is Gratitude an Emotion or an Action?
Gratitude is an action as well as an emotion. The act of expressing gratefulness creates a deep-seated emotion that drives actions such as kindness, compassion, and lovingness. It’s an empowering emotion and one that’ll give you the positive boost you need on stressful days. By expressing gratitude you’re releasing those “feel-good” feelings we all need to keep on keeping on.
When you express gratefulness for something or someone, it goes far deeper than simply saying “thank you.” It’s a deeper emotion that reflects your appreciativeness that results in positive behavior and empowering outcomes.
Think of all the times you’ve felt grateful or deeply thankful for someone or something and nod your head if you felt inspired to take any or all of the following actions:
A desire to expand your lovingkindness towards others and yourself
An innate need to be gentle and compassionate with others
A willingness to give more of yourself to others
An infinite sense of possibilities and opportunities
A deeper understanding of others and the ability to respond rather than react
When consciously practicing gratitude you’re tapping into a powerful emotion that leads to empowering actions.
The Benefits of Gratitude as a Daily Spiritual Practice
What are the benefits of integrating gratitude into your daily spiritual practice? While it’s a positive emotion that leads to empowering actions, it also gives you so much more:
Unconditional act of appreciation: You’re expressing your gratefulness to someone or something without any expectations of something in return. By behaving in a selfless way, you’re showing someone what their own worth is and making them feel valued.
More good things come your way: And while you don’t expect anything to come back when you express your gratitude, it’s one of the universal laws of attraction. What you give out in the form of gratitude, comes back in so many good ways too.
A better sense of wellbeing: People who practice gratefulness on a daily basis are often more content, fulfilled, and balanced, mind, body, and soul. The act of daily thankfulness will enhance your sense of wellbeing on all levels.
Better relationships: A person who practices appreciation on a deeper level is more likely to have better relationships with their family, friends, and work colleagues. By expressing your gratefulness to others, you’re nurturing existing relationships while building new ones.
More self-control: Gratitude teaches you patience and with that comes the discipline and focus needed for more self-control. Gratefulness also teaches you to understand others better which results in better responsiveness.
More positivity and happiness: When you express thankfulness on a deeper level, you’re going to feel more optimistic. You’ll also increase your levels of happiness and experience this emotion more often.
With all of these benefits playing out whenever your practice gratitude, you can expect your life to be a whole lot better too. You’ll have better coping mechanisms for dealing with situations that challenge you and you’ll have more resilience when dealing with uncertainty and fear.
9 Tips to Using Gratitude as a Daily Spiritual Practice
I’ve written about how to live a spiritual life and one of the tips here was to practice gratitude. But, how can you practice gratitude besides saying thank you when your friend treats you to lunch? There are so many ways to integrate gratitude into your daily spiritual practice and here are my nine tips to doing so.
1. Express Gratitude When You Wake Up
Expressing gratitude as soon as you wake up is a powerful way to start every day. Before heading off to the kitchen to make your first cup of coffee for the day, lie in bed for five minutes and give thanks for the day ahead. Express your deep appreciation for a new day and new beginnings that come with every dawn. Saying out loud your thankfulness for another day full of opportunities is a wonderful act of gratitude.
Saying thank you for the warm bed, the roof over your head, and a peaceful night’s sleep is another way of expressing gratitude every morning.
2. Say “Thank You” With Each Step You Take
I learned this simple but effective tip from John Kehoe, the author of “Mind Power into the 21st Century” and it’s perfect for acting out once you’ve finished expressing your gratitude for the new day. For every step you take out of bed and into the kitchen, you simply say, ‘Thank you.” This act awakens your mind further to the act of being grateful for all that is around you, with you, and within you.
So, it’s “thank you” when you put one foot on the floor as your rise out of bed. It’s “thank you” when you take the next step to the bedroom door and so on. Every step you take, you’re mentally (or aloud) saying, ‘thank you.”
3. Live in the Moment
If you’re not present and living in the moment, you’re going to miss out on all those “ordinary” things that are absolutely “extraordinary!” That beautiful red rose that’s suddenly blooming in your garden. Look at it, gently feel its velvety petals, inhale its bouquet, and marvel in the pure beauty of nature. And, while you’re marveling at all of its beauty, express your gratefulness to be alive and well and at this moment to be able to experience something so beautiful.
Listen to the birds calling on your morning walk, watch the sunrise or set, and be aware of the butterfly flittering from one flower to the next. We take these joyful sights for granted and yet if we really take note of them, we’ll feel such a huge sense of thankfulness.
4. Appreciate Others
By appreciating what others do for you and expressing your gratefulness, you’re building and maintaining strong and healthy relationships. Acknowledging someone for something they’ve done for you cultivates a sense of loving-kindness for the person being recognized. And, while your expression of gratitude may have been unconditional, the other person can’t help but want to give back loving-kindness as well.
This positive exchange of energy means you’ll have a supportive and caring circle of people who honor you as you value them. Healthy relationships also result in a better sense of wellbeing for you and others.
5. Write in a Gratitude Journal
Journaling is a powerful tool and expressing your gratitude on a daily basis in your journal is a good way of turning this activity into a daily spiritual practice. The best time to do it is at the end of the day before you go to bed. This is the time when you can sit quietly and reflect on the day that has passed.
You can list all the things and people you’re grateful for in your journal and take it one step further by describing how you feel and what that feeling makes you do.
Get one of these gratitude journals to capture all your thankfulness and appreciation every day.
6. Saying Thank You Before Meditation
I have a little ritual before each mediation in the evening. I light a candle, burn some incense, dim the lights, and then I stand in front of my mirror. With my palms together, and looking into the mirror, I express my gratefulness for all that I am thankful for. I give thanks for the good weather, my beautiful home, a good session I had with a client, and for the love my partner gives me. Whatever I wish to show my appreciation for, I say it out loud while looking into the mirror.
When I am done, I’m ready to sit down and start my meditation. This act not only clears my mind in preparation for the meditation but also elevates my consciousness levels for stronger mindfulness.
7. Be Aware of Your Language
If you’re prone to using negative language then make a pledge with yourself to change your choice of words. Instead of focusing on all that is going wrong with your day and verbalizing it – “This long queue sucks! Can’t anyone get their act together?”, find things that have gone right for the day.
This came from one of my clients who had been standing in a queue for three hours while waiting for his COVID-19 jab. His only comment was, “I’m so lucky to enjoy a cup of Starbucks while standing in the queue to get my vaccine.”
8. Take Action
By physically taking action, you can express your gratitude every day in every way. Smiling at the bank teller when they’ve finished with your transaction, giving hugs to the person who offered to carry your shopping bag, and writing a letter of thanks are always you can express your thankfulness and appreciation when taking action.
Stroking your dog with love shows your gratefulness for their healing presence in your life. Putting your hand on someone’s shoulder when they’ve just helped you across the road is another act of gratefulness. And, sending someone a small gift for no reason whatsoever, shows your deep appreciation for their existence in your life.
9. Do a Gratitude Meditation
There are many guided meditations focused on gratitude. You can purchase them online or search for one on Youtube such as the one I’ve shared here.
Gratitude meditations help you to tune into what was good that day, to use your senses to take in all that is good around you, and to express your gratefulness on a deeper, more conscious level.
The act of gratitude is really so simple and it’s something we can all incorporate into our daily lives, whether you’re spiritual or not. It’s an empowering act that results in positive actions and outcomes. It’s the key to a healthier mind, body, and soul while giving you an overall sense of wellbeing.
You’ll have meaningful and strong relationships, better self-control and response-ability, and increased happiness. Gratitude is a daily spiritual practice that is key to a more balanced and peaceful life. Isn’t that all you want, after all?